Just as the nation mourned the deaths of 40 soldiers in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama, four soldiers were killed during an 18-hour gunbattle in the same district less than a week later. The operation, according to Army officials, wiped out the top leadership of the Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed in the valley after three terrorists were shot dead.
The soldiers' grieving families now say their final goodbye to them. Heart-wrenching images of the soldiers' last journey have united the country in anger and in grief.
The wife of Major Vibhuti Shankar Dhoundiyal, among the soldiers killed during the Pulwama gunfight, gave a farewell message to her husband. In an emotional clip, the wife standing in front of her husband's coffin, is heard saying, "You said you loved me, but the fact is you loved the nation more."
Nikita Kaul, who married the 34-year-old Army Major from Dehradun just a year ago, said her love story was a simple and sweet one. "I spoke to him just before he took that bus," she was heard saying before the funeral.
Major Vibhuti Shankar Dhoundiyal was one among the four soldiers - Sepoy Hari Singh, 27, Havaldar Sheo Ram, 37, and Sepoy Ajay Kumar, 27, who died. The Major was supposed to visit home in April for the couple's first-year wedding anniversary.
Facing the coffin covered in the national flag, Nikita Kaul asked people to be strong rather than to sympathise. "I am really proud. We all love you. The way you love everyone is entirely different because you sacrificed your life for the people who you may have never met, but still you decided to give your life for them. You are such a brave man. I am very honoured to have you as my husband. I'll love you till my last breath. I owe my life to you," she said, holding back tears.
Thousands gathered in Dehradun to pay their tributes to Major Dhoundiyal amid chants of "Vande Mataram and Shaheed Dhoundiyal Amar Rahein".
Also present at the funeral was Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat.
Nikita Kaul, who works in Delhi, blew a kiss as she concluded her heartfelt message. "I love you, Vibhu. Let us salute this man here, Jai Hind," she said.
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